2020: Knitting, Spinning and Baking

Happy New Year and welcome to January! I know that apart from the number nothing has changed since the ball dropped but I hope the year will be softer for all of us and that 2021 will be what you need it to be. Our New Year’s Eve was quiet (tbh it usually is), I knit on a pair of socks intended for the birthday of my partner later in January (jury is out on whether I’ll make it), we comforted the cats hiding under the bed (for a country that banned all fireworks this year because of Covid, there was a frightening amount of fireworks throughout the whole day and night) and we doodled some memorable 2020 things as a memento. Memorable can mean big things (like our move last year) but also sweet ordinary moments like spotting a cool mushroom. This is something we have started doing since a year or two and doodling together on the same paper, handing each other coloured pencils and talking about the year together is a real gentle way of saying goodbye to and making space for and welcoming the new. And finally, we capped of the night by taking pictures of the moon as she broke through the fireworks-induced fog after midnight.

Before I move on with all things new on the blog I wanted to have one last look at 2020. I reflected on my sewing and balcony garden in my previous post and in this is its companion post where I look at my knitting in 2020, at taking up spinning and our baking.

Knitting

I feel my knitting this year has been more eclectic rather than structured. I would say that overall I let my making process flow quite organic. I try to avoid the pressure of productivity or of following long pre-made plans (this is why I never sign up for 12 projects in 12 months, make nine and that sort of challenges). That said, I usually have some ideas floating in my head or broader plans but this year I let go of that too. This resulted in some unexpected cast ons and where I usually have only one, or at most two, active projects on the needles at any time, there were times this year where I juggled three or four projects simultaneously. This likely will not sound like a lot to some of you but for me was a completely new way of dealing with WIPs. The end result probably doesn’t look that chaotic or improvised to an outsider, in large part that is because I have a strong preferences in general types of projects and I have a favourite colour palette. But I feel my approach with it has been more playful this year.

This way of dealing with my needle crafts this year led me to pick up and try some new things. I got very passionate about things seemingly out of the blue – even to myself. Taking up spinning was a major unexpected surprise that came like this and in November I got really fiercely into sock knitting whereas I had little to no interest in knitting them before. I tried to have a fuss free approach with my knitting and sort of go where I felt like going at that moment. Funnily enough that usually led me to knit a project in one go from start to finish before I picked something new. I don’t think trying new things wouldn’t have happened at all in a “normal” 2020, but perhaps the erratic, stressful year was reflected in more erratic, playful crafting as a counterweight.

So let’s have a look at what I got off the needles this year.

Harvest Moon Cardigan

First up is my blue allover cardigan that I made over the winter and dubbed Harvest Moon, which is altogether not a terribly original name but I started it the day of that particular full moon, hence the moniker. She is probably the finished knit of this year that is closest to my heart. In general, I believe people prefer light main colours for knitting allovers, or at least, that’s what I see online most. Personally, I’m quite fond of moody colourwork; I made the colouring of my Unst cardigan darker than the suggested pattern colours but I went all out with this night sky echoing allover. Dark blue is one of my heart’s colours and it is perhaps predicable how well it has merged with the rest of my wardrobe.

I’m proud of this one, because I planned or created the motifs, patterning, colours, shape and fit by myself. It’s the first project where I did so much of the thought process myself, so in that sense it is either more a miracle or kind of logical that I love it so much (it depends on my self belief of the day which one I think is more true). I think the beautiful yarn and the blue black mother of pearls buttons are also doing a lot of the heavy lifting on this one. All in all it was a great experience, and a route I think I’d like to take more often with my knits. That said there are are also just a lot of patterns out there that I love to knit exactly as they are so I’ll just see where the mood takes me.

Chestnut

The other allover I worked on this year is my Chestnut Cardigan. I haven’t posted the finished project here yet, and I’ll share more details when I eventually get to that, but the project merits a mention as a highlight of the year here as I’ve documented my work on it throughout the year. The feel of this one is very different from my blue allover, like a field of wildflowers in bloom in the summer breeze with busy pollinators buzzing about. I’ll talk more about this cardigan in its designated posts but I can already tell you it’s been well worn this autumn/winter (I’m wearing it as I’m typing this!).

Blackberries and Cherries

Next I made this playful colourblocked skiff hat. I liked experimenting with this project and, in hindsight, making a hat in two colours because I didn’t have enough of one of either single colour fits my “making the stash and leftovers work for me” theme that this year subconsciously got. It’s funny how particular I apparently am about hats but when I have found a pattern I like and wear a lot I have zero issues with knitting multiple versions of said pattern (Both Skiff and Brackett got this treatment). Happily it is now hat wearing season here so you bet I’m making the most of wearing my hat collection and this one is indeed in heavy rotation.

In Lieu of an Ice Suit

My Argil top was an older make but I blogged about it this summer so I’ll include it in the round up. I started it during an epic record breaking heat wave and photographed it a year later during another epic record breaking heatwave (yeah I don’t like where this is going either). I remain a bit ambiguous about this knit as I’ll probably always be about hot weather makes. Because this type of garment is intended to be worn over a very specific seasonal period, it doesn’t really feel fair to judge its success in terms of amount of wear either, compared to garments I wear for three seasons every year. That said, I have worn it over the summer, and also found ways of layering it over tanks and dresses and under thinner cardigans which broadens its time frame a bit.

A Selection of Scrappy Yokes

My Tundra Jumper is another favourite project of this year. It’s one of the projects I started this year with the clear goal of using only stash yarn for the main colour and only small leftovers of other projects for the yoke design. This made the planning part a bit more work but it was a rewarding process at the same time. The resulting colour combination is more muted and slightly outside of my usual colour palette. In this case though I think that really works and creates a beautiful moody late winter/early spring feel.

The Wren Fair Isle Yoke was my other project that had a similar origin story as my Tundra yoke as I also made it happen with only stash yarn and scraps. A big difference between my process regarding both jumpers is where I used more colours than the pattern called for in my Tundra, in my Wren jumper I used fewer colours and thus limited my palette a bit. I’m glad that with these two jumpers I brought my “using scraps” effort a bit more to the forefront in my crafting and I’m curious to see how this will develop.

Otherwise there is a world of difference between both jumpers. The colour palette on the Wren is warm, the colour values much stronger and intenser and has an autumnal feel. It’s a modern interpretation of the Shetland tree and star yokes. It is a lightweight jumper (very lightweight compared to the Tundra knitted in Istex lopi!), to the point that at this stage of winter it’s a bit too cold to wear Wren on its own, but it still works as a layering piece with for example my Wiksten jacket.

Sock Knitting

I mentioned at the top of the post that I got really into sock knitting at the end of the year. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen some of that (or you perhaps have seen me favourite an …er…interesting amount of socks as of late). It came as a bit of a surprise and kind of mimics how I got into spinning. I saw a pair of socks and was overcome by the feeling of wanting to knit it… right away… When that feeling stuck around instead of evaporating after a good cup of tea, I decided to just go for it. Since then I’ve been somewhat exploring the world of sock knitting, which I’m discovering is really a bit of a whole niche on its own. I’m really enjoying it so far; getting weirdly excited about the prospect of scrap socks and have just casted on for my third pair since November. (whaaat?)

Learning to Spin

My biggest fibre craft endeavour in 2020 wasn’t a finished knitting project though. Instead, without doubt, it was taking up and learning how to spin over the summer. I hadn’t seen this interest coming at all and I feel like it just sort of happened. It happened in a way similar to the sock knitting impulse; I saw a photo of someone’s handspun yarn one day (an occurrence that, as a moderately online knitter, happens to me with some regularity, so this wasn’t something new), got the urge to try it, remembered I actually owned a spindle and some fibre, and magnificently and unbelievably I’m still at it.

I’m still very much a beginner, but at the same time feel I’ve learned and improved a lot already. I’ve finished a few skeins so far and while they are far from perfect, they are workable skeins of yarn and I am immensely proud of them. Honestly, what does perfect even mean? I’m seeing improvement with every freshly spun skein which is really exciting. I’m planning on writing some more about this in the new year. I waited it out a bit because I wanted to see how this new interest would develop and if it would stick. Since it looks like the interest is very much sticking I should get around to that soon. Who knows maybe in next year’s review post I’ll be able to talk about what knitting with my handspun is like! (eeeek!)

Natural Dyeing

I’ve also enjoyed stepping back into some more natural dyeing this year. I’m particularity pleased with the result of my onion dyed Istex yarn (pictured above). I got more interested in gathering and harvesting flowers and other dye materials from both my kitchen and my neighbourhood. Going out to forage in fields and roadsides for the first time this year was both a good learning opportunity and exciting to do. This is something I want to explore further and research more about how to do in a sustainable and conscious way as it’s such a meaningful way to connect to the land and your surroundings, even in an urban environment where I live. I think if spinning remains a force in my craft life in 2021 there is a good chance I’ll be combining both activities in the future but we’ll see.

Baking

Along with a whole wave of other people, my partner and I became serious bread bakers this year. We dipped our toes into bread baking at the start of this year for fun, but got more serious about it when we got into sourdough in March (just like all those others who felt a deep need to channel their lockdown anxiety through bread). We’ve learned a lot, improved, still had fails, can improve some more, but mostly we’ve had nine months of bread that we made ourselves and loved eating and was better than we can buy in the store. It’s been really cool to explore this way of creating things, that has some similarities to the slow craft of knitting for example, but in most ways is very different. In starting this we have discovered some local flour mills, some of which sell flour made from local wheat! It’s been deeply rooting to connect to our surroundings and environment in a way that I didn’t have before we started doing this. Because we got into baking bread we also stretched our general baking skills more beyond bread which I guess has been an added bonus of this year.

Towards the end of the year my partner brought home a pasta maker. So we’ve been experimenting with making that from scratch too. It’s pretty straightforward and also reasonably fast once you get the hang of it. Towards the end of the year we both suffered from a lack of head space so we haven’t tried all the things we want to make with this yet but hopefully in the new year that gets back on track as I would love to explore making different noodle varieties with it as well. Overall it’s been a really good year for making food from scratch at the Treehouse this year (and also for eating gluten).

The Blog

This year I also moved my blog from its blogspot roots to its own patch of the internet. In many ways I think this move has been good for me. I increasingly feel uneasy with other platforms I’m on and I like having a place where I can come to write and truly make it a home for myself on the internet. As a result I think I’ve blogged more than I perhaps have in recent years and also had more fulfilment in doing so. Being a craft blogger in 2020 is an odd place, and increasingly lonely, but I still think it suits me the best.

I’ve been shifting some stuff from instagram to the blog this year. I’ve been writing more posts about about what I’m making, what I’ve been growing, where I’ve been walking, what I’ve been seeing, what I’m mending, and so forth, instead of only posting finished makes. I’ve also been doing more of what I call ‘catch up posts’ that are a bit of a hodgepodge of everything that’s been going on in my life. I still do a lot of project posts, but I’m hoping this shows more of the process behind it (and shows that the final makes don’t just appear out of thin air). I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to write more about my garden and show you photos of my walks and my surroundings. I hope you have enjoyed visiting this online space of mine. I hope you found some inspiration, distraction and companionship in what’s no doubt been a hard year. I want to thank everyone for following along on my crafty endeavours, for giving me encouragements, inspiration and advise both on here and instagram.

xxx

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